Wrongful Death Lawsuits: Holding the Reckless Responsible

The ingredients were all there for tragedy: snow, a slush-covered road, and an 18-wheeler pulling two trailers going dangerously fast. When the truck came to a curve in the highway, the tragedy unfolded.

An Oregon mother and wife, Robin Rae Udey, was killed when Ronald Jory lost control of his Kenworth tractor trailer on a cold winter day. According to witnesses, Jory was driving far too fast for conditions; as his big rig neared the curve, the vehicle crossed the center line and slammed into Udey's Toyota head on. Jory was pronounced dead at the scene of the violent crash.

Her family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent truck driver's employer.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death suit is filed in state court. It doesn't ask the state to lock up the person responsible for another's death through negligence, recklessness or a deliberate act such as murder. A wrongful death lawsuit instead asks a court to punish the guilty by requiring them to financially compensate the family that lost a loved one.

After all, a person who kills someone through negligence, recklessness or a deliberate act harms not only the victim, but the victim's family that depended on the deceased loved one for emotional and financial support.

Udey's husband has lost not only the love and emotional support of his wife of nearly 35 years, but also her companionship, income and benefits as a long-time federal employee.

How Is a Wrongful Death Suit Decided?

In a criminal case, the state must prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the accused is guilty. Anything less, and the defendant is found not guilty of the crime and goes free.

In a civil court, the standard of proof is lower. The plaintiff — the party who files the lawsuit — must have "a preponderance of evidence" in order to prevail. That means the plaintiff must simply have more evidence than the defendant.

A wrongful death lawsuit provides a measure of justice that the criminal courts often fail to deliver. A person can be found not guilty of manslaughter after a fatal DUI crash but nevertheless lose a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court for needlessly causing the victim's death.

The Pursuit of Justice

To learn more about pursuing justice with a wrongful death lawsuit, contact a Chicago, Illinois, wrongful death attorney for an assessment of the case and your legal options. A wrongful death lawyer helps the families of victims hold reckless and negligent people accountable for the harm they cause in a motor vehicle crash or other needless tragedy.